Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Thomson Medical eyes S'pore listing in near term

By Claire Huang
Sep 13, 2016

AWAY from the public eye, Thomson Medical Pte Ltd, controlled by Singapore billionaire Peter Lim, has been busy growing its services and is now looking to add more beds to its hospital in Novena as it works towards a local listing in the near future.

Roy Quek, who took over as chairman of Thomson Medical last November, told The Business Times in an interview that he had aimed for a Singapore listing within 12 to 18 months of helming the business.

"If we were to do a listing now, we'd probably have a market capitalisation of S$2-3 billion. I think we can do better. We're targeting S$5 billion for a start and trying to grow that."

Thomson Medical is owned by Mr Lim's Singapore-based holding company Sasteria Pte Ltd, which also controls Thomson affiliates in Malaysia and Indonesia.

As it prepares to list the holding company, Thomson Medical has been beefing up in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia through mergers and acquisitions (M&As), said Mr Quek, who is also executive director and group chief executive of Malaysia-listed TMC Life Sciences Bhd (TMCLS).

In Singapore, the private healthcare provider wants to ramp up its tertiary hospital with 300 more beds as the 190-bed Thomson Medical Centre (TMC) is at full capacity, even as birth rates here decline.

This is part of a wider vision of a Singapore healthcare "precinct" - much like a mini replica of Vantage Bay Healthcare City in Iskandar but without the education and research arm. Patients who live in this precinct can access not just the hospital, but also other facilities including rehabilitation and day care centres in one integrated location.

The company hopes to turn the Singapore precinct into its flagship in the next five years, while concurrently expanding its businesses in Malaysia and Indonesia.

"If you're somebody with young kids or elderly parents or parents- in-law and you're very concerned with what happens to them when you go to work, this (precinct) basically looks after everybody for you. If you need home care, it's there," said Mr Quek, who added that this model can be planned and executed seamlessly, making it more cost effective and efficient.

In time to come, primary care and specialist outpatient operations would be housed in centres located islandwide. Patients would then be able to head to these centres for their outpatient needs, top up health foods or go for a sports massage, among other things, he shared.

"The idea is to build a system that allows us not just to tap the top private sector doctors alone but find ways to have partnerships with the public sector," he said, adding that the company is also keen to work with the government to build hospitals.

In the near term, Mr Quek wants to integrate up- and downstream operations to provide what he described as "cradle to grave" coverage, where the healthcare provider caters not only to consumers' primary stages of life but also follows them through their adulthood and well into their silver years.

In line with this, Thomson Medical has branched into the lifestyle and wellness segments to help consumers "maintain their healthy parts as long as possible".

Also in the pipeline is its plan to go big on telehealth and electronic health services to cater to those who are in good health and mobile.

All these are signs that Thomson Medical has moved on from troubles of the past after the current management took over in late 2010, at about the same time when the then-listed TMC came under fire after its fertility centre botched an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure by impregnating a woman in January 2010 with another man's sperm instead of her husband's.

Following the management change, Thomson Medical has grown beyond its core business of women's and children's health within a span of five years into a multi-disciplinary healthcare provider that comprises 25 specialist outpatient clinics in FY2016, up from 11 in FY2011. These include services such as dermatology, aesthetics, women's cancer and dental care.

And the efforts to expand have yielded results. Between FY2010 and FY2016, revenues and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) have doubled.

Topline grew from the S$50 million-S$100 million range to the current range of S$150 million-S$200 million. The hospital continues to contribute the bulk of the revenue at 57.4 per cent for the financial year as at end-August 2016, followed by the fast-growing specialist segment at 38.9 per cent.

Across the Causeway, the company is awaiting official approval and hopes to start the development of Vantage Bay by year-end. The RM5 billion (S$1.67 billion) integrated healthcare hub would comprise specialist, community and teaching hospitals, long-term care facilities, a medical school, research and training institutions, purpose-built urban wellness resort, wellness retail services and other associated facilities.

Further down the road, Thomson Medical is looking to widen its reach to China, India and Australia - ambitions that the Singapore listing would help fund, said Mr Quek.

For now, his greatest concern is not about a potential listing at a time of economic slowdown and market volatility, although he acknowledged that these could be tricky. Still, he believes investors are receptive to healthcare businesses.

"My biggest challenge going forward is to ensure our clinical quality and assurance in my team - that's what keeps me up (at night). I certainly believe the doctors are good and we have the right system in place, but with size, you worry."